You most likely have seen a blood drive and may have even donated blood. You may have thought it was simply a kind act that you did. However, donating blood is an activity that not only helps those who are in need, but it has also been shown to have positive effects on your health as well. As people age, their risk for certain health conditions increases, but donating blood regularly can help to mitigate some of these risks and promote graceful aging.
Here are some of the benefits to aging gracefully by donating blood on a regular basis:
1. Heart Health: Donating blood has been linked to lower blood pressure and a lower risk for heart attacks. Donating regularly can help your blood to flow more easily and can help keep your iron stores in balance. For those who are on Testosterone replacement, it is strongly advised to donate blood on a regular basis. While Testosterone replacement has a wide variety of benefits, one side effect can be an increase in the red blood cells within your body. Donating blood on a regular basis when on Testosterone replacement is a simple way to eliminate this side effect — helping you to be healthier and help someone else at the same time.
2. Reduced Risk of Cancer: Studies have found that regularly donating blood may help to reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as liver, lung and colon cancer. This is felt to be because blood donation helps to reduce the levels of iron in the body, which can be a contributing factor in the development of some types of cancer.
3. Better Brain Health: Iron overload can have negative impacts on cognitive function and has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Donating blood can help to reduce the amount of iron in the body, which can help to keep the brain functioning optimally.
4. Slowing down the aging process: Studies have shown that blood donation reduces free radicals in the bloodstream. Free radicals can lead to cell and tissue damage, which accelerates aging. In addition, blood donation leads to increased collagen synthesis and decreased breakdown of collagen–rejuvenating your skin.
5. Improved Self-Esteem: By donating blood, people may feel like they are making a tangible contribution to society, which can lead to increased feelings of self-esteem and satisfaction with life.
6. Weight Management: While blood donation should not be used as a weight loss strategy, it is interesting to note that one blood donation can burn approximately 650 calories. That is definitely a nice bonus to donating blood!
7. Assist Detoxification: Your body can detoxify itself through several organs (liver, skin, kidneys, etc.) and giving blood can assist your body’s detoxing ability. Blood donations have been shown to decrease the amount of certain chemicals in the blood and they remove excess iron from the liver, allowing your liver to function more effectively.
Now that you know why donating blood can benefit your health, you may be wondering how often you should donate blood. For the average person, donating blood 3 times a year has been shown to provide the benefits that we mentioned. However, most blood donation centers allow you to donate up to 6 times a year, waiting 8 weeks in between blood donations. If you need to donate blood more often than that, a doctor’s prescription will be required.
When you donate blood it is important to hydrate ahead of time and it is advised to eat a healthy, low fat meal 2-3 hours ahead of time. Drinking plenty of water the day before and the day of the blood donation will ensure success. Avoid donating blood on an empty stomach and do eat ahead of time, giving your food time to digest properly. And of course, do not donate blood if you are feeling sick with a cold, flu, stomach bug, etc. Following these tips will ensure that you feel your best and that the blood donation goes smoothly.
Of course, just as with anything there are potential downsides. It does take some time out of your day but most blood donation centers are efficient and take appointments. Although typically well tolerated you may feel faint, have slight discomfort at the IV site, have some bruising, or even develop a hematoma, These potential side effects are self limited.
Some people get over zealous and want to donate more often than is necessary. Although donating blood has numerous benefits, it is important to ensure that you do not develop anemia by donating too often. The center that takes your blood will check for anemia before allowing you to donate blood.
There are some people who wish to donate blood to enhance their health but may be disqualified at a blood center or simply find it too difficult to go to a blood donation center. Our office does offer therapeutic phlebotomy. The procedure is identical to blood donation but the blood is not donated and there is a cost to cover this service. (blood donation centers sell your blood which allows them to cover the costs of blood donation)
Donating blood regularly can be a proactive way for you to support your health and wellness. By improving cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of cancer, promoting brain function and contributing to overall health, blood donation can play a role in promoting graceful aging.